Blu-ray Review: KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM

knightsKnights of Badassdom started gaining buzz when it premiered its trailer during a panel at Comic-Con 2011. The majority of attendees had no awareness of the indie film though some ears perked at the presence of fan favorites like Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Danny Pudi (Community), and Summer Glau (Serenity). The footage received a rousing reaction from the exact demographics the movie was hoping to hit. Unfortunately, Knights has been sitting on the shelf until now thanks to Entertainment One, who are releasing it on DVD & Blu-ray. Disagreements between director Joe Lynch and the producers over final cut led to the delay. After viewing Knights, I’m not so sure if Lynch’s version would have been a significant improvement.

Knights is set in the world of LARPing that’s Live Action Role-Playing for the uninitiated. Friendly folks do battle in a medieval fantasy world with a little help from some foam weapons and a wealth of imagination. Joe (Ryan Kwanten) used to be a LARPer as well as a master of Dungeons & Dragons. He once gave Ronny Kwok’s (Jimmi Simpson) paladin a serious case of demonic syphilis. Nowadays, Joe is an aspiring musician, specializing in doom metal, while working a day job as an auto mechanic. That’s not enough for his girlfriend, Beth (Margarita Levieva), who wants a boyfriend with some iota of ambition. Joe gets dumped in humiliating fashion and copes by getting stoned with his best friends Eric (Steve Zahn) and Hung (Dinklage). He awakens the next morning in armor and finds a horde of LARPers preparing for the Battle of Evermore.

Joe reluctantly joins in, but the games become far too real when Eric unknowingly reads from a magical tome with actual supernatural origins. Eric summons a bloodthirsty succubus that looks exactly like Beth and starts killing LARPers one by one.

One of the problems with Knights is Ryan Kwanten. It’s not that the Aussie actor gives a bad performance; he’s perfectly fine and feels like a natural fit. However, his character is one of the least interesting in the picture and he doesn’t have the screen presence of his co-stars. When you’re in there with Peter Dinklage, you need a load of charisma just to stand out. Dinklage (who also served as an executive producer) is one of the highlights as he essentially parodies Tyrion Lannister. He’s brash and extremely enthusiastic about the whole venture. Zahn and Jimmi Simpson, as the fussy gamesmaster, are also quite funny in their supporting roles. Glau joins the fray as the guild’s lone female, Gwen, who started LARPing in order to look after her cousin Gunther (Brett Gipson), an Ivan Dragon lookalike who remains in character 24/7.

You can’t fault any of the actors, many of whom are in the movie far too briefly, for Knights being something of a slog. The story starts off promisingly enough, but loses traction at the midpoint. It’s as if screenwriters Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall just ran out of material. So, we wind up with repetitive sequences in which nothing of important actually happens. There’s also an awkward blend of horror and comedy where the filmmakers are clearly inspired by Evil Dead with the goofy humor of Renaissance fair speak. At least, Knights treats its subjects with respect and never truly ridicules the subculture.

Considering the limited budget, you would think those involved would be more innovative with the gore and special effects. Instead, they rely on chintzy CGI that doesn’t look at all convincing and a final act monster looks absolutely ridiculous.

Video/Audio: 8
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The transfer is clean with some digital noise in the nighttime sequences. Otherwise, skin tones are natural and colors are bold, particularly the greens of the forest.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Dialogue is crisp and clear with some nice immersion during the battle scenes.

Extras: 4
Peter Dinklage Interview (1:19), Steve Zahn Interview (1:05), and Summer Glau Hottie Montage (1:59) are brief snippets from the actors intercut with clips from the film.

Horr-o-medy 1 (1:11) and 2 (1:05) are quick looks at the special effects and the blending of horror and comedy.

Director Joe Lynch Interview (7:12) features the director discussing his love for the horror genre, LARPing, the characters, and practical effects. This is also the only extra presented in standard definition.

San Diego Comic-Con Panel (48:34) is the Q&A from the annual Mecca for nerds. The panel consists of Joe Lynch, Ryan Kwanten, Jimmi Simpson, Danny Pudi, Michael Gladis, Margarita Levieva, Summer Glau, and Peter Dinklage.

The theatrical trailer rounds out the extras.

Film Value: 5
Knights of Badassdom was an eagerly anticipated release, but when the time came the movie failed to deliver. Not even the winning cast is enough to elevate the lackluster material into a film worth recommending.
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